In a speech and news conference Wednesday to mark his first year in office, President Joe Biden touted his accomplishments and put a positive spin on the unfinished items on his ambitious legislative and political agendas.
He ended his prepared remarks by saying that, “We have faced some of the biggest challenges we have ever faced in this country these past few years. Challenges to our public health, challenges to our economy. But we are getting through it.”
In addition to all of their other duties and responsibilities, U.S. presidents must respond and sometimes have a hand in managing national crisis situations. Looking back on the past 12 months, Biden appeared to do many things right. But there are major areas where he and his administration could have done better.
Granted, no business leader will ever have to worry about the same kinds of crisis situations that confronted Biden and other U.S. presidents. But that does not means president should ignore the same best practices company executives should follow when managing a disaster, scandal or other emergency at their organizations.
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The Good News
Here’s a summary of what Biden and his team got right over the past 12 months.
- Bolstered efforts to fight the Omicron variant
- Announced vaccination and testing mandates for employers with more than 100 workers. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court struck down those mandates.
- Sped the rollout of Covid vaccines; more than 210 million Americans are now fully vaccinated.
- Announced the distribution of free Covid tests and masks for adults.
- Made progress in addressing the national supply chain crisis.
- Announced the launch of a dashboard to help measure and track progress in dealing with backed-up ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach.
- Biden proposed and Congress passed his bipartisan infrastructure legislation.
- He announced a new program and funding to repair 15,000 bridges.
- While he made good on his promise to withdraw all U.S. troops from that war-torn country, he was roundly criticized for the timing and implementation of the withdrawal.
The Bad News
- He and members of his administration have at times sent mixed, confusing or contradictory messages about various aspects of the pandemic.
Build Back Better
Setting Too High Expectations
Jonathan McCollum is the chair of federal government relations for law firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron. He observed that, “President Biden took office at perhaps the most polarized time in American history, so it’s not surprising that country is divided over his performance as we approach the one-year mark.
Overestimated His Abilities
“In the early months of his administration, the President set high expectations and with the narrowest of narrow majorities in the Senate, this was likely a mistake. The President overestimated his ability to negotiate bipartisan agreements and his personal power of persuasion, which has led to a prolonged number of setbacks in passing key agenda items, namely the Build Back Better bill and Voting Rights legislation.
On The Defensive
“The administration has had some valuable and important successes over the past year, namely the passage of a historic $1 trillion dollar infrastructure package and nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan.
“Had expectations not have been set so high, these achievements would have been more properly recognized; however, with the rapid spread of the omicron variant, testing shortages and rising inflation, the administration is on the defensive and, in the face of an incredibly high bar, the Administration was not able to effectually meet, these accomplishments may be overshadowed as Democrats head into the 2022 midterm elections.”
‘Slow To React’
Nicholas Creel is an assistant professor of business law at Georgia College and State University. He said, that, “In looking at the biggest crises occurring during Biden’s presidency, the common theme is that the administration has been consistently slow to react. A crisis demands rapid course correction as the situation evolves; being nimble makes the difference between a successful and a failed response.
Inadequate Covid Testing
“In Biden’s first year, we’ve seen a number of crises play out. Covid testing has remained inadequate during the Omicron surge, the Afghan government collapsed far faster than we anticipated, inflation has not been as transitory as was expected,” he said.
“This administration has lagged in terms of policy change as each respective crisis unfolded. Further, each crisis was entirely foreseeable, indicating a lack of foresight by the administration that business leaders should take to illustrate the importance of planning for things to go wrong rather than just reacting to a problem in the moment thereby guaranteeing a much slower response,” Creel concluded.
Advice For Business Leaders
Business leaders can learn the following lessons from Biden’s success, mistakes and failures in dealing with crisis situations since his inauguration in January 2021:
- Don’t raise expectations.
- Don’t promise more than you can deliver.
- Express confidence in your ability to address a crisis.
- Ensure you have all the resources you will need to respond to the crisis.
- Don’t wait to change strategies or tactics in order to respond to developments.